Eminent domain- Should we fight?
July 8, 2008 1:41 PM   Subscribe

Redevelopment and eminent domain- Should I fight it?

Apparently my condo that I bought just over a year ago is in a location that is prime real estate for a new train station and the city has plans for rebuilding the entire area to have high rise condos and apartments with shops on the first floor. Surrounding townhomes and office buildings are getting rezoning letters to classify the area for residential and commercial. The time frame for the train to be built is up to 5 years away, but they might be trying to develop the property in advance so that the area is built up when it arrives.

What I want to know is this: Is this good or bad? On the one hand I have property that could possibly experience a boom, on the other hand the city might try to condemn the property so that they can redevelop it. There is a town meeting next week and a group of us are going. Should we fight? Any questions we should ask?
posted by ets960 to Law & Government (7 answers total)
You've expressed an awful lot of mights and maybes, but no definite knowledge of the city's plans vis-a-vis eminent domain.

You should definitely attend the town meeting to get more information. Perhaps even ask if the city plans to invoke eminent domain over residential properties. Remember...there's a big gulf between the city (or developers) offering you a buyout on your property (potential profit) and the city invoking eminent domain (big fail.)

Still, you (and your neighbors) might want to begin investigating legal representation, just so you are prepared, instead of having to scramble for representation at the last minute, if it comes down to that.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:15 PM on July 8, 2008

Best answer: It's very good news for you.

1. Although you don't say where you live or how old your building is, I doubt that your condo will be taken by eminent domain because the allignment for the rail line will have been mapped years ago during an earlier transit planning heyday. . In transit planning terms, 5 years from now is just around the corner. Even if the planners didn't identify where to put the station way back when, they will not choose a difficult multi-owner site (a building full of condos); they will pick something both central and simple. Finally, eminent domain is a last resort because it sets off alarm bells with the property rights crowd and lawsuits ensue; they will choose an inferior site they can buy outright over a superior site that will create litigation. However, if you live in a condominium with a small number of units (e.g. a triplex) you may be at greater risk.

2. There is plenty of empirical evidence that the value of residential real estate near (e.g., within 1/4 mile or even more) train stations rises much faster (over 35 percent faster in some markets) than comparable properties without that location advantage. Google "residential value" and "transit-oriented development" for many links describing studies performed in urban and suburban markets.

3. However, from the sounds of it the rezoning will create additional competition for your unit from new construction that may be better located vis-a-vis the new train station and the surrounding new retail, office, etc. You may to make sure your condo association is committed to making design updates, keeping up with maintenance, etc. to ensure that you and your fellow owners reap the windfall possible from proximity to commuter rail.

4. Regarding the meeting, a few suggestion (IAAUPC, but IANYUPC where UPC = urban planning consultant)... First, do not enter the meeting loaded for bear and ready to fight. If this is the first meeting, there will be plenty of time for that in what will be an enormous and lengthy process involving numerous meetings. Moreover, you need the city planners to want to help you and your friends, e.g., by providing information and listening to your concerns. Do not behave badly, e.g., like the other foaming NIMBYs they deal with all the time. Remember that the planners have a long-term agenda and believe they are doing the right thing from a long range (e.g., 20 years and beyond) perspective. They shut down when people assume they are either communists or evil.

Your goal should be to find out all you can about the project timeline, the work to date, the decisions that have already been made and what remains to be determined, where your community's station fits into the plan for the whole line, what they've already identified as touchy aspects of the plan, etc. Determine how you can have a voice in the process, e.g., volunteer for any committees and put your name on the sign-in sheet. Ask where you can download copies of the planning work done to date.

5. How it might be bad news for you. You don't say how long you intend to live in your condo, but consider how your plans might dovetail (or not) with the construction period if you will be adversely impacted by that. You might want to start thinking through your options now, e.g., whether you plan to stay, treat it as an investment property, rent it during construction, etc.

I hope this helps.
posted by carmicha at 2:15 PM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

well the first question I have after reading your post, is why you think that eminent domain is imminent? simply rezoning an area doesn't mean that the government will take your land.

what's more likely is that the city, in an attempt to target new development around the future train station, is hoping to incentivize private property owners to sell or otherwise redevelop their property by increasing the highest and best use. By going from a residential zone to a mixed residential-commercial zone, the market value of your home will likely increase dramatically.

The fact is that eminent domain is a rea controvrsial issue these days and cities are shying away from using it if there are other redevelopment tools available (like incentivizing property owners). I don't know much about Schaumburg whereyou live, but unless you head from official sources that they're looking at ED, I'd hold off on waging a giant protest.

at the meeting try to get a better sense of what the cities goals are with this rezoning? try to get specific commens rom the officials about why they are using these tools, and how redevelopment in this area fits with community objectives. this last piece could help you fight the rezoning as spot zoning if they can't relate it to the citiy's master or comprehensive plan. and finally, if the eminent domain thing came through gossip or hearsey, try to get a comment from city people.

btw... IANAL but IAACityPlanner
posted by jk252b at 2:18 PM on July 8, 2008

but as carmica said: IANYUPC
posted by jk252b at 2:20 PM on July 8, 2008

Ok, if you live in Schaumburg, are you talking about the new STAR line? If so, I think that station is going near the IKEA and the line itself is going to run down the middle of the tollway.
posted by carmicha at 2:45 PM on July 8, 2008

Response by poster: Yup, you have it right, the new STAR line. Thanks for all the answers, it sounds like I should be approaching this from the positive perspective and not worrying about any negatives. Thanks for all of the replies!
posted by ets960 at 8:14 PM on July 8, 2008

Response by poster: By the way- the reason I have assumed eminent domain is because we have seen some of the plans that they have intended and they show new streets that would go through where one of our existing buildings is (not mine) and 'mock-ups' of the new high-rise condos that they hope to have in place. At this point I'm going to just ask these questions and get an understanding if the intention is to use eminent domain to acquire our property.
posted by ets960 at 8:24 PM on July 8, 2008

« Older Help reduce my Dutchland-induced anxiety!   |   Will this group exercise work? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.